Sometimes children drive parents crazy. It almost seems as if misbehaving is their most persistent role in their early years. But Angela Luben* mother of two preteen girls says she’d prefer to ground them, confine them to their rooms or even take away special privileges than lay her hands on either one of her children.
Despite the fact that her way of disciplining her children may be different from the way things are done in most primary schools in St Lucia, she’s always told her children, “If you know you did something wrong, don’t come home and tell me no teacher beat you.”
“I get my licks at school already; you get your one two strokes on your hand then go about your business,” she said.
But surely not to the severity that she says her 11-year-old daughter was beaten by her grade six teacher last week. The girl’s mother had been out of the island and only found out about the incident involving her younger daughter when she got back to St Lucia on Sunday.
“We were driving from Vieux Fort and she told me she had something to tell me. I’m like what,” Luben said. “She was skeptical to show me at first and told me she’d tell me when we got home. I’m wondering, what’s going on? I said no, if you have something to tell me, tell me. When my kids have something to tell me I’m very open with them. She said her teacher beat her. I asked her for what. Then she showed me the marks and I was like what? When I saw her arm and her back I asked what happened? What you get a licking like that for? Then she told me the story.”
On Friday, January 21 the 11-year-old student told her mother the class had a weekly test that included graph work. She went to her teacher but hadn’t put the days of the week directly on the lines as required, so she was beaten.
“They gave her about 11 strokes on her hand and sent her back to do it,” the girl’s mother said. “She said she sat down, erased it and started doing it again. She didn’t go back to the teacher. She sat down to do her weekly test corrections. The teacher came back telling her, “What are you doing?” and just started licking her down with the plastic ruler. That’s how she got all the bruises on her back and her arms.”
The situation was like deja vu for the 11-year-old’s mother as she says, her eldest daughter, now 12, had been in the same class.
“It was the same torture and everything and it’s not the first time this teacher is doing that. As far as I’m concerned, only the principal is authorized to discipline students that way. If you have a problem with my daughter you call me in. I have friends who are willing to testify with me who have gone through the same thing but never pursued it. You do not beat up my child to the point where I have to take her to the doctor; she couldn’t even lift up her arm! When I finally saw it on the Sunday it was already getting black and blue.”
The grade six student was taken to the school with her irate grandmother (who’d been the first to see the bruises) on Saturday, January 22 where they met up with the school principal who apparently hadn’t even been aware of the occurrence. The girl’s mother finally met with the district education officer and the principal at the school on Monday where she expressed she was not going to take the matter lightly.
“My daughter is afraid right now,” Luben said. “She’s afraid of the teacher and that’s why I told them to transfer her. Take her out from the class so she won’t have any fears toward the teacher. She’s sitting Common Entrance soon so there’s no point taking her out from the school. On the Tuesday she winded up going to the same teacher’s class because she hadn’t been assigned to another class yet and the teacher is holding her, hugging her and kissing her, asking her “Don’t you forgive me?” I mean come on. It’s like a husband beating a wife and giving her a rose the next day. That’s a child you’re dealing with and she’s already afraid of you, why you coming and hold and kiss my child?”
The young girl’s mother wondered why the teacher in question hadn’t at least been suspended while the education ministry investigated the matter.
“Right now the teacher is still at school teaching; that is so wrong,” the concerned parent added. “The education ministry has a copy of her medical report and pictures so they have no excuse not to do anything about it. The teacher
texted me to apologize but there is absolutely no explanation for
beating my child like that. I haven’t approached the teacher, nothing. I want to hold my calm. I don’t want to make my right my wrong. I want to deal with this the right way.”
Within the Education Act No 41 of 1999, Part 2, Division 5, under Discipline, Suspension and Expulsion of Students, a section on Corporal Punishment is outlined.
“Section 50.—(1) In the enforcement of discipline in public schools, assisted schools and private educational institutions, degrading or injurious punishment shall not be administered. (2) Corporal punishment may be administered where no other punishment is considered suitable or effective, and only by the principal, deputy principal or any teacher appointed by the principal for that purpose, in a manner, which is in conformity with the guidelines issued in writing by the Chief Education Officer.
“(3) Whenever corporal punishment is administered an entry must be made in a punishment book which shall be kept in each school for such purpose indicating the nature and extent of the punishment and the reasons for administering it. (4) A person other than those mentioned in subsection (2) who administers corporal punishment to a student on school premises commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.”
On the education ministry’s side of things, the matter was now in the hands of chief education officer Augusta Ifill. As part of the process the student, teacher and school principal had all been required to write a letter with their side of what transpired. Once all the information is gathered, the education chief would send the report over to the Teaching Service Commission.
“The Teaching Service Commission is the only body on the island that can discipline a teacher, either suspend or fire them,” said Julian Delauney, district two education officer. “You can’t suspend anyone until you have all the evidence. It’s easy for the teacher to call her lawyer and bring that to court; there is a procedure that has to be followed.
Asked his view on the matter, Delauney who met with the mother and child in this case said: “While the TSA would have to decide, if it is true, I can’t defend any teacher on that.”
Delauney said the chief education officer was working swiftly to get the report to the Teaching Service Commission.
*Names have been changed upon request from the family.